Finding a solution to bullying is no easy task, but Auburn Township’s Oscar Reinart has taken it upon himself to spread kindness and confidence in others to do what he can to mitigate the problem.
Oscar, 9, said he has been a victim of bullying and has seen the same happen to his friends. While he said the bullying he experienced was “not the worst,” it was still an experience he wouldn’t wish on others, especially knowing its potentially serious consequences.
“It made me feel sad, and I really wanted to stop it because it’s annoying and mean,” Oscar said. “People might want to hurt themselves because the bullies are really mean.”
With the help of his parents, James and Kristy Reinart, the Timmons Elementary School third-grader kicked off the nonprofit “BullyProof by Oscar” last February and has since raised more than $2,000 by selling T-shirts, hats, bracelets and challenge coins to spread awareness of bullying and the impact it has on others.
According to StopBullying.gov, an official website of the U.S. government, “Research indicates that persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair, as well as depression and anxiety,” which can potentially lead to instances of self harm or suicide. Worldwide, about one-third of youths experience bullying, the website states, and nationwide, about 20 percent of students between 12 and 18 years old experience bullying.
Through BullyProofbyOscar.com, the nonprofit sells the merchandise with the BullyProof logo Oscar designed himself. The money raised, Mr. Reinart explained, is used to give back to the community and those affected by bullying.
“[Oscar] is really into design and fashion,” Mr. Reinart said. “He created a logo for himself, which is all over the website, all over his clothes, and we decided the best way to get the logo out to people is to do something good with it.”
Oscar’s nonprofit concluded its first promotional campaign this month, which was a challenge for Northeast Ohio kids to create and share a video about ways to prevent or stop bullying. BullyProof by Oscar was to give out $1,000 in gift cards to winners Thanksgiving week.
Mr. Reinart said he and Oscar are planning other ways they can give back, too, like building a monster truck go-kart with the BullyProof logo to give kids who are experiencing bullying rides and a good time.
He said people can reach out to them through their website who may be experiencing bullying and they’ll bring the go-kart to them.
“We’re going to go bring the go-kart over [to them] and have fun with them,” Mr. Reinart explained. “Oscar will say hi to them and make sure that they’re in good shape and know that they’re not in this alone.”
Mr. Reinart said they plan to raise money to help purchase a Corvette with the BullyProof logo to give kids rides, which would be mostly sponsored by himself as a general manager at Ganley Chevrolet of Aurora.
Plans are also underway for their first fundraiser at the Chagrin Valley Roller Rink, he said. The actual event will not happen until after the COVID-19 pandemic when it is safe enough to do so, “hopefully in 2021.”
The website has a link for reporting bullying, he said. When they receive a report, they reach out to the schools in instances where students might not have the confidence to do so themselves. He said with the nonprofit or parents getting involved, the schools are able to get a better handle on the situations.
“We know there’s bullying and we can’t stop it [from happening],” Mr. Reinart said, “but if we talk to enough people and we get people thinking the way we’re thinking, we believe that we can help a few people.”
The merchandise acts as a reminder to people to step up for others who may be experiencing bullying or to be kind to others, he explained.
For those who might not feel confident enough to sport the BullyProof shirt or hat, Oscar said they decided to also sell the bracelets and challenge coins to be more subtle reminders.
If someone doesn’t feel confident enough to wear the logo on a shirt or hat for fear of subjecting themselves to more bullying, they can keep the token in their pockets to keep them confident, Oscar said.
“[It’s] something you can keep on you to know that you have confidence, that there is support, that people do care about you,” Mr. Reinart explained. “And if somebody’s getting bullied, you can give them this coin and it has our website on it, so they can reach out to us if they’re not comfortable with reporting it [to the school] themselves.”
One way that Oscar recommends helping others in instances of bullying is to stand together with friends for support.
Drawing from his own experience, he said when he and friends stayed with another student, they wouldn’t get bullied with the support.
Oscar pointed out, however, that those who bully may be in need of just as much help as those who are bullied, adding that they may be experiencing bullying themselves and are taking it out on others.
“[With COVID-19], mental distress is at an all-time high, depression is at an all-time high, and we really need to be focusing on the good stuff out there,” Mr. Reinart said. “And the good stuff is supporting people and not putting people down. Rising people up.
“We also know that bullies aren’t necessarily bad people. They just might be in a situation where that’s how they’re expressing themselves or their situation’s really bad at home,” he added. By reporting bullying or reaching out to spread kindness, “we might be able to change that.”
When seeing others wear his design, Oscar said, “It’s definitely really cool.” He plans to make a new design each year, and Mr. Reinart added that plans are in the works to add Christmas socks with the logo to their store.
When he’s not on his mission to prevent bullying, Oscar said one of his favorite pastimes is making YouTube videos. He added that he enjoys jumping on his trampoline, playing sports like basketball, baseball, tennis or ping-pong, and camping with his dad in the summer.
“He’s a good kid who really understands what’s going on,” Mr. Reinart said. “We want people to be kind to each other and take care of each other.”